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Long-Shot Candidates Look Beyond New Hampshire

Of 27 New Hampshire "unknowns" reached after the first primary, 23 have characterized their campaigns as still active.
IMAGE: Vermin Supreme
Presidential candidate Vermin Supreme smiles while holding a giant toothbrush with a boot on his head Feb. 9 in Londonderry, New Hampshire.AP

Presidential candidate Vermin Supreme isn't asking for much: a free pony for all Americans, mandatory tooth brushing laws, time travel research and something about zombies. When MSNBC spoke with the satirical politician prior to last Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, he also added that "Vermin Supreme must be stopped at all costs." Highly entertaining, if not always on message, Supreme is the most recognizable of the combined 40 "unknown" candidates who appeared alongside the marquee names on the Democratic and Republican ballots in the Granite State.

Supreme, a regular on the New Hampshire primary scene, has achieved political cult status in Manchester with his instantly recognizable wardrobe — a boot worn on his head — and amusing antics, including crashing the campaign events of mainstream candidates. This year, he managed to goad New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie into an impromptu parking lot debate in which Christie engaged with Supreme on his signature issue. "I don't hate ponies," shouted Christie. "I don't want free ponies. Earn your pony." Supreme ultimately received 265 votes in the New Hampshire primary, good enough for fourth place in the 25-person Democratic field in the only state in which his name appears on the ballot.

IMAGE: Vermin Supreme
Presidential candidate Vermin Supreme smiles while holding a giant toothbrush with a boot on his head Feb. 9 in Londonderry, New Hampshire.AP

Of the 27 New Hampshire "unknowns" that MSNBC has been able to reach after the nation's first primary, most of whom are running on serious issues, 23 have characterized their campaigns as still active. More than half of that group say they will be on at least one more state primary ballot in the coming months. Included on that list is Democrat John Wolfe Jr., a Tennessee attorney who's trying to balance a presidential campaign with his full-time law practice. He has yet to create a campaign website but is considering using robo calls ahead of the Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana primaries, where he says his name will appear on the ballot. Wolfe has a strong track record in Arkansas, where he took 42 percent of the vote from President Obama in the 2012 Democratic primary.

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Democratic candidate Jon Adams (distant relative) does have a website, which he's using as a multipurpose platform to spread his anti-tax, pro-veteran agenda and to seek applications for a potential first lady. "I had more dates before I ran for president," he said via email. "Maybe there will be some responses on Valentine's Day!"

Republican attorney Chomi Prag, the only female "unknown" on the New Hampshire ballot, has vowed to continue campaigning on "ObamaCare" repeal and more privacy for Americans, but has yet to land an official slot in any upcoming contests.

For Democrat Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente, the road out of New Hampshire will be blazed on his ubiquitous campaign bus, which he purchased for $84,000 in Iowa and hopes to sell for $100,000 at the end of the presidential race — a far more economical plan, he claims, than those some of his opponents have implemented. Unlike most of the budget-strapped underdogs, De La Fuente says his name will appear on at least 40 primary ballots, where he hopes voters will reward his support of immigration reform, job creation and building city parks.

Despite his larger reach, De La Fuente shares one thing in common with his fellow New Hampshire long shots: None of them will appear on a ballot in South Carolina's "First in the South" primaries on February 20 and 27, where the cost is far more prohibitive than last Tuesday's $1,000 entry fee. The lone South Carolina curiosity will be Willie Wilson, a self-made Chicago businessman, who will appear on the Democratic ballot along with Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley. As in New Hampshire, the former Maryland governor's name will remain on the ballot despite having suspended his campaign after the Iowa caucuses.

Wilson previously finished third in the 2015 Chicago mayoral race, and he is the longtime host of the Windy City's television gospel music show "Singsation." Reached by phone in South Carolina yesterday, Wilson said, "I'll be happy if I get 20 percent or so of the delegates. ... I'm hoping I can win it."

Wilson, who recalls going from mopping floors at McDonald's to owning five franchises of his own, knows the road ahead will be difficult. "I believe anything is possible, but I come on this journey to work hard and have faith."